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No, You Can't Fasten Your Seat Belt: Movie Chase Scenes with Odd Vehicles

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Aug 20, 2012 | 9:19am EDT

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premium rush chaseThe thrill of the chase; it’s not just the basis of some weird hunting analogy for modern dating. The chase sequence is an essential component of action movies. More often than not, these chases come to us to the tune of roaring engines and squealing tires.

However, there are the rare instances in which a chase sequence opts for less conventional modes of transportation. Sometimes these chases can venture into the realm of downright silly, but there are the occasions where thrills and suspense can be found in the pursuit of all sorts of bizarre crafts.

BMX Bikes (BMX Bandits)

If the trailers are to be believed, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is going to try and make riding a bicycle look like a death-defying endeavor in Premium Rush this weekend. This is not the first time a movie has tried to make bikes major action set pieces. Australian director Brian Trenchard-Smith tried to capitalize on the BMX craze with his 1983 teens-turned-heroes flick BMX Bandits. The idea was simple; BMX bikes can go where cars and even motorcycles cannot. The result may have been an oddball kids movie, but you have to give the movie credit for ingenuity; bikes going through shopping malls and down waterslides. Also, you have to love the fact that it costars a very young Nicole Kidman.

Hoverboard (Back to the Future Part II)

The second installment of the Back to the Future franchise may not have given us the most accurate portrayal of the future, but it was certainly the one in which we most wanted to live. Sure, there were no iPhones or high-def TVs in the Hill Valley of 2015, but one thing it did have, from which we are still woefully removed as a society, is the hoverboard. One of the most seminal scenes in Back to the Future Part II is the one in which Michael J. Fox is pursued by future bullies while cruising through town on this wheel-free miracle of science. Whether a Pitbull or just the Mattel version, this chase scene makes us desperately want a hoverboard.

Speeder Bikes (Return of the Jedi)

The original Star Wars trilogy, as it takes place in a galaxy far far away, is packed to the rafters with out-of-this-world vehicles. But even with all the tie-fighter and x-wing dogfights, the best vehicular chase in the trilogy has to be the speeder bike sequence in Return of the Jedi. The aptly named bikes achieve breakneck velocity as they go careening through the trees. As exciting and well constructed as this sequence is, one glaring fallacy comes shining through during viewing. What genius in the Galactic Empire’s resource management department thought it would be a good idea to issue lighting-fast, barely-controllable rocket pods to troopers on densely wooded planets? That just seems like a recipe for unnecessary employee turnover.

Gondolas (Moonraker)

James Bond is a name that has set the standard for action in the spy genre of cinema for many years. However, the series did reach a point wherein the action didn’t necessarily have to conform to the highest standards of reason or logic. The pinnacle of this decline in logic is the gondola chase in Moonraker. The idea of crafting a thrill-a-minute action sequence on a boat meant to be slowly paddled through the romantic canals of Venice is goofy enough, but the movie then takes it to the next level of dopey by having that gondola suddenly gain the ability to drive on land. If nothing else, it makes a crow do a double take. So you know… there’s that.

Mine Carts (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom)

If hearts being ripped from people’s chests is the most memorable aspect of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, then surely the mine cart chase is a close second. (Unless of course you count yourself an enormous Kate Capshaw fan.) As Indy and his compatriots try to escape from Mola Ram’s child-operated mine, they flee their pursuers in a steel cart on what has to be one of the most elaborately designed tracks this side of an amusement park. The music, the intricate editing, and the classic movie serial spirit make this one of the trademark moments of the entire franchise.

Skydive Chase (Moonraker)

As a special bonus, and in further testament to the outlandishness of Moonraker, we offer this chase from the film’s opening. Jut before the title sequence begins, we see Bond chasing the iconic henchmen Jaws. The only real vehicle to speak of here is gravity, as Bond makes a desperate attempt to steal Jaws’ chute before plummeting to his death. However, the pure mind-melting spectacle of this chase, and its Barnum and Bailey ending, has to be seen in order to be believed. We seriously could have done this whole list with lesser James Bond films.

[Photo Credit: Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures]

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